On Peace: The Viability of Nonviolence


Ed. 168/12.05.2021

“Violence just hurts those who are already hurt… Instead of exposing the brutality of the oppressor, it justifies it.” Cesar Chavez

Nigeria has, in recent times, like in the distant past, suffered some woes that have threatened the threshold of its democracy and its continuous existence as a nation. The height of this multi-faceted woes is the insecurity of the people and their properties, the security of whom and which should be the primary purpose of government pursuant to the Constitution, seems to be worsening by the day.

In these 5 months in the year 2021, many discomforting events across Nigeria have further exposed the porousness of our security. Since January, about 700 students have been taken in at least four school kidnappings in northern Nigeria. Many adults have also been kidnapped for ransom across Nigeria and some even lost their lives in the process. Many farmers have been killed on their farmlands during clashes with some Fulani herdsmen while many others have been displaced, never to return to their farms anytime soon for fear of attacks.

The fact that Nigeria is under serious internal security threats is an undeniable popular knowledge. And by all means, the government should rise to the occasion with the support of the traditional leaders and the citizenry who could assist with needed information that could aid military intelligence.

To be frank, I absolutely don’t believe that the secession of any group is the right and lasting solution to our perennial problem as a nation or to the personal challenge any unit or group of people in the nation might be facing at the moment. That would, at best, in my opinion, amount to treating the ailment without the root cause – deep-seated corruption – which is not peculiar to any particular unit or tribe or region to the exclusion of others.

Some persons are already mobilising and influencing their followers to begin to take up arms and ammunitions to fight for their independent nation by way of violence. This might look courageous and inviting especially to an average citizen within their network and sphere of influence but a discerning heart and good student of history would realise that violence does no good. It’s Malcolm X that said “violence is good as long as it works”. However, the reality is that violence has never and will never work satisfactorily. There are many historical moments and periods where violence has been attempted as a way to gain freedom or get something that was considered essential, but none ended well. Some examples are the French riots of 2005, the American Revolution, and the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. They all had same thing in common: killings, car burnings, and people rendered invalid from war, etc.

Against the misconception of many, nonviolent action is for the strong. It’s the ability to win patiently. It takes time, yes. But who says with right action and demonstration, it cannot be as quick as possible. While violence seems to be swift, what’s the joy of victory in turning to the same monster one aims to eliminate at the end of the struggle? While many things are not certain with the employment of violence, loss or waste of lives – innocent or otherwise – and loss of valuables are not in doubt. You can only know the beginning of a violent action or war, how it will go or turn out is totally oblivious to everyone. Unfortunately, more often than not, “violence just hurts those who are already hurt… Instead of exposing the brutality of the oppressor, it justifies it.” (Cesar Chavez)

Nigeria, with its current composition, is a federal State with regulated laws of which the chief is the 1999 Constitution, as amended. By virtue of this grund norm, anything done against the letters and spirit of the constitution is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency to the Constitution, and where the nature of things done is traceable to the corridor of criminal jurisprudence, then such a thing becomes a crime which is punishable by law.

I strongly admonish everyone, particularly those who have influence and who are passionate about any change whatsoever to follow the due course of law and order in actualizing that change. There is a legally laid down process for everything, including secession or a break-up. Violence is not one of them, otherwise whoever engages in it could be tagged a rebel and could face the wrath of the law irrespective of the genuineness of his/her intention. We might need to first amend our Constitution in order to have any lasting restructuring as a nation.

On the issue of following due process, take Brexit for example, there was a process the UK followed to pull out of the EU. If it is worth it, it won’t matter if it takes time. That’s why the path to a desired result is called a process after all.

Of the many options there may be, nonviolence remains the most viable. It’s the most honourable. This is why I can’t but agree with Badge Micheels-Cyrus when he submitted that “non-violence doesn’t always work but violence never does”.

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